I love crocus flowers, and if you are looking for an early spring flowering bulb for bees, crocus are a great choice. That said, autumn flowering crocuses are available.
Crocus can be grown in pots, in the border, or in my view, one of the best places to see them: in the lawn.
Why are crocus valuable for bees?
The early spring flowering varieties are especially valuable because they provide plenty of pollen for early emerging queen bumble bees, solitary bee species, and especially foraging worker honey bees, keen to replenish the colony food stores following the winter months.
Newly emerged bumble bee queens will also particularly benefit from the crocus pollen they gather from Autumn flowering varieties.
As far as I am aware, pretty much all of the crocus provide food for bees, but I tend to prefer the early spring flowering crocus, because they help bees when they are potentially vulnerable because other sources of food can be a bit limited.
I can especially recommended the following:
A lovely mauve crocus, with orange styles. Flowers from February - in my view, this makes it one of the best crocus for bees.
Honey bees will face very cool temperatures in order to find food for the colony.
Like wise, pollen is an important source of protein and lipids (fats) for bees.
Pollen is a valuable source of protein and fats for bumble bee queens emerging from hibernation whilst solitary bees store pollen in nest cells as food for larvae.
2. Crocus tommasinianus –
Early crocus, 'Whitewell Purple'
Has slender purple petals and orange stamens. Will flower from late winter to early spring, and helpful for early foraging bees.
Highly recommended for inclusion in your winter border for bees.
3. Yellow Giant - 'Golden Yellow'
Produces large yellow flowers in spring from February to March.
Another pretty, spring-flowering yellow crocus.
5. 'Ruby Giant'
Stunning, rich purple flowers and with an orange stigma
6. Joan of Arc
Large white flowers with purple at the base. The stigma is orange and frilly.
7. Autumn flowering crocus - Crocus speciosus
A pale mauvish, lilac crocus with dark veins. It flowers from September to November, and provides late foraging bees with an additional food source.
Newly emerged queen bumble bees need to consume a fair amount of pollen in order to lay down fat reserves for their winter snooze, so if you have space on a sunny lawn, or a few pots going spare, why not include some in your garden?
If planting in a lawn, then arrange them in informal drifts for a natural look, but remember you cannot mow the lawn until after the leaves have died back.
As with other crocus flowers, you can divide clumps of bulbs and plant elsewhere in the garden.
Yes, bees also visit the saffron crocus Crocus sativus, which flowers in autumn.
It is of course possible to harvest the delicate strands of saffron from these flowers, which can then be dried, but you’ll need a lot of bulbs, not to mention time, to carefully remove the delicate strands.
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